Friday, November 14, 2008

Closing the Ring

My brain seems to want serious food lately, so I've gone back to the Churchill volumes on WWII. Every time I read these I am amazed at the lack of knowledge I have on the subject. It is so depressing. Especially now that I am honestly trying harder to not read all the time and be more useful in other ways; there are just so many books I want to read and things I want to learn.

This book covers the time from mid-1943 to just before D-Day, June 6, 1944. The amount of planning it took to launch that invasion is incredible. The fact that two different governments, with two separate military bureaucracies, managed to do such a good job is absolutely astounding. And during all this build-up phase they were invading Italy, negotiating with the Russia and and busy with all sorts of things. I was sadly amused to notice that during this time the Greeks had what amounted to a civil war on top of being invaded by the Germans. There were three different factions claiming to be the REAL government in exile. It got so bad an entire battalion of Greek infantry refused to obey any Allied orders unless one group was recognized and a Greek destroyer mutinied. The peaceful resolutions of these difficulties showed a lot of patience on the Allied commanders' part, I thought.

One reason I like reading histories is the applicability to our own times. I read the following quote right around the time of the election, and it seemed to sum up the problems I have with both GW Bush and Obama:

What holds us together is the prosecution of the war. No Socialist or Liberal or Labour man has been in any way asked to give up his convictions. That would be indecent and improper. We are held together by something outside, which rivets all our attention. The principle that we work on is, "Everything for the war, whether controversial or not, and nothing controversial that is not bona fide needed for the war. That is our position." We must also be careful that a pretext is not made of war needs to introduce far-reaching social or political changes by a side-wind.

We have been asked to be on a war footing for a long while, but except for a relatively small number, those sacrifices have been changes in the way we regard our freedoms. The war has been an excuse, not the cause, for a number of non-necessary controversial changes. I now worry that correcting those will also be an excuse, not the reason, for another round of forced changes. That's enough on politics for now. It is one of those things you either say very little or way too much.

Closing the Ring. Winston Churchill. Houghton Mifflin. 1951

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